Japan/Strategic Overview

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Faction Overview Strategic Overview History
  • Strengths: Highly versatile faction with a variegated army, unit research is faster than other factions, good border rusher.
  • Weaknesses: Incapable of retraining most units, high dependence on Nobles' Court for its best units, lack of good siege weapons after the Imperial Era, no advanced light cavalry or mercenary component.

Japan is a fairly oddball civilisation to play, given the strange idiosyncracies present in the history of Japanese military culture. Because of its isolated position, its units also reflect those idiosyncracies well.

The first thing to note about Japan is its highly variegated army. It obtains the same light infantry units like its Asian counterparts China and Mongolia, but has a very unique set of infantry, cavalry and mercenaries. Around half of its late-game units require the researching of Imperial Mandate, fairly much the same way as how European nations require Centralisation to reach the majority of their units (with the exception of a few).

Unlike other factions where cavalry and infantry are concentrated in one area, Japan's troops are divided into a mainstream force that come from normal recruitment centres and an elite corps from the Nobles' Court. The Japanese military machine is dominated by the landed warrior aristocracy, which comes from two areas: the Barracks (later the Dojo) and the Nobles' Court. The first unique unit, the Ronin Archer, is a mercenary unit recruitable in the Dark Age and is a weak but easily recruited bowman which can stand alongside your stronger Archers. However, this is not the strongest unit, but only the weakest. This is followed later by a better mercenary unit, the Bow Ashigaru, and the Shōen Retainers, which are Dark Age spear unit with lower metal costs in lieu of food, and finally the Naginata Ashigaru, which is in fact akin to an Espadachine with splash attack from the Barracks. The best part about the Shōen Retainers is that Japan can often summon many of them with each barracks constructed, so these units can be banked and the metal and food outlays for them expended elsewhere.

Japan's army however is deficient in two areas: cavalry, gunpowder units and fortifications. Until the Imperial Era, her melee cavalry are extremely weak, the only Castle Age cavalry unit, the Saburai Archer, with its slow but far-ranged attack, being recruited from the Nobles' Court in the Castle Age. This however is soon joined by several other units: Foot Saburai, bearing yari pikes, and with Imperial Mandata researched, katana Saburai infantry, and Saburai Cavalry sporting dachi and naginata. Beyond these units, however, Japan will be forced to use Dark Age era lancers, light horses and cavalry archers, being much weaker than most other units from successive ages, are still fairly cheaper and less difficult to train. Japan's Forts do not raise gunpowder units whatsoever — whatever gunpowder units you need will have to be obtained from the Outpost, those units being the Ribault and the Mercenary Artillerist which, while being fast to equip, may be not as powerful as other factions' Castle siege units. If all else fails, Japan's cheaper castles might be your last ine of defence.

Units aside, the Japanese, being a nation increasingly at war with one another, is a master of fortification and self-sufficiency: cheaper castles, enhanced military technology levels and wealth-generating cities all lend themselves to building a nation that is self-sufficient and capable of defending itself. This ability to retain flexibility with many choices also means that Japan's military is as well-balanced as it is complex, especially given the exorbitant timber costs associated with the War Junk line: it can select the right mix of units (unlike timber-dependent China) on land, while its ability to scrounge on metal means better production of heavy ships and units, or an ability to turtle and do a wonder rush (all Asian factions are better wonder rushers than other factions). Japan's only problem might be its weak Castle Age: ships aside, its cavalry is weaker even than that of China until it can muster its 3 advanced units: Saburai Cavalry and Retainers, and Naginata Ashigaru which can still be easily be broken apart by other cavalry, especially the Mongol unique units. Furthermore, the heavily reliance of Japan on the Nobles' Court to obtain its strongest unique units means that the number of samurai units it can summon on the field is very limited — whereas Europeans can create their best units anywhere, Japanese Saburai with the exception of its Castle-based Retinue Saburai can only be created in your largest cities, and you can only create one unit per city at a time.

Weighing all these options, it can best be said that no one strategy suits Japan best, and will have to be tailored according to conditions, and a player will have to pay attention to what his or her opponent builds. Some hints are as follows:

  • Turks: in the early game, use the cheaper Ronin Archers to negate the heavy archers, and protect them with Shōen Retainers and Saburai from cavalry attacks. Use your cheaper castles to deny the Turks ground for their cities.
  • Mongols: build plenty of forts, and fill them with Saburai and Scorpions to take out Mongol cavalry.
  • England: a combination of mercenary archers and conscripts should be capable enough to absorb and destroy any longbow formations, aided by Lancers and Saburai.
  • Spain: Saburai Archers and Bow Ashigaru can fend off jinetes, and Monomi can be sent to eliminate Christian chivalric order units to weaken an enemy's ranks.

Faction summary[edit]

  • Highly militarised civ, capable of supporting a large variety of units.
  • Upper Crust — Once you arrive in the Castle Age, get out a Nobles' Court as soon as you can - you will be heavily dependent on Saburai Archers to give your units long-range fire.
  • Fortitude — Boost any tax gains that you have by building forts to increase percentage of territory controlled. Wealth is key for Japan's gunpowder and archer mercenaries.
  • Ronin — Screen your forces with your cheaper mercenaries against archer-heavy civs, such as England, Poland or China.
  • Ain't No Wall High Enough — Despite their low rate of fire, Saburai Archers have decent speed (for a cavalryman) and the long reach of their bows means that Japan can rake an enemy's towers with few problems.
  • Bushi — Free spawning heavy infantry means more archers, since each barracks built means more metal and food saved on units.
  • I Don't Like To Slay Alone — Consider training siege weapons to complement your troops.
  • Spy Hard — Monomi are the game's most powerful agent units, due to their abilities. Consider keeping a retinue of them at all times.
  • BANZAI!!! — A powerful rush strategy can be achieved using your cheaper and free-spawning Shōen Retainers and dirt-cheap suicide soldiers and archers. Utilise the offensive power of your infantry to complement a light infantry banzai charge.

Best age(s):[edit]

Dark and Imperial


Strategic Overview
Basic gameplay Rise of Chivalry Renovatio Europam